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Online Privacy: Citi Virtual Cards.

I really like Citi's Virtual card concept. With this service, you never have to give out your real credit card number online. Citi provides you with a tool that can generate a virtual credit card number. You use it for any merchant online. The card number is totally random. Cannot be traced back to original card number.

The Tool is of two types. You can download and install it (a flash based *application* - NOT an air app - WHY?) or your can launch in a browser. The install variant is only available for windows (has a specific installer works only on PC). For macs and *nix, You have use the launcher.

NOTE: Donot use Virtual Account Numbers for purchases that require you to show your credit card at time of pick-up (e.g., movie tickets, etc.). I fell in that trap twice. You can talk to the manager, but hey, why the hassle?

Now, Why am I, a developer, taking special interest in promoting this? Apart from the general push for privacy, I want to show how poorly designed is the access to this virtual card system. For some reason, to access the laucher, you have to access your login - first. And the link to launch is another couple of clicks and steps. The lunched app (same flash app as the installable variant), again asks you to login.

  • First of all, the home page has a *critical* bug on linux. The page loads with a transparent help overlay flash (has no reason to be there) - preventing you to enter the username password. The only work around is to use firebug to delete that element or write a grease monkey script
  • Having to log into my account: This is crazy. All this only to open the popup.You are shopping online. Just about to check out a hot deal. Boom. You are slowed down to a snail.
  • The page could have been a simple link/button on the dashboard, but they just take you round and round on a roller coaster ride
  • The development could easily transform the flash install type. to an air app. Had it been so, you can even get it in *nix, mac

But the simplest solution of all is to get that link and open it yourself. To demonstrate this, I quickly copied the popup js code from the account page. See how easy it is to launch. click in the image below.

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